Tag Archives: Discover Church of the C&MA

What’s Multicultural Church?

It’s the church.

This is a topic we’ll look more deeply at in Re:Discovering the Mission of God, but this question has come up recently, so I’m taking some time to cover it here.

In Re:Discovering the Mission of God, we are taking time to go through Scripture and challenge our assumptions. We all have many assumptions that are shaped by our culture, and we are on a mission to rebuild on Christ alone, looking to God’s word as God’s tool to sanctify us and bring us into greater Christlikeness. The things that were being addressed are issues that may emerge within our own hearts, lives, and churches, issues that there is always opportunity to receive forgiveness for when we confess our sin and receive forgiveness in Christ (1 John 1:8-10).

When the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write the letters that are in the canon of Scripture, a few of those letters were originally written to individuals, but most were written to saints gathered together as the witnessing community and the body of Christ…the church. Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, the names we routinely call these books are derived from the key cities in which the recipients lived. Many of us are familiar with the passage regarding the meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8), the famous verse that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female in Christ, but unity in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and various passages written to bring truth to lies of legalism.

When we consider the context of these passages, it wasn’t necessarily individual sin being addressed, but sins that were emerging as normative within churches, patterns of thought and belief that were affecting the church’s witness of the Gospel and rootedness in Christ. Many of these issues could have been easily avoided by doing one simple thing: planting separate churches for Jews and Gentiles. But ever since the Holy Spirit confirmed to Peter that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentile in Cornelius’ home (Acts 10-11), the only language that distinguishes any church from another relates to geographic location, such as those addressed by Christ in Revelation 2-3.

If we look at Scripture alone, multicultural would be to church as tall is to giraffe. It goes without saying. So why talk about it now? As the Gospel goes forth into every tribe and nation, there are many cities, towns, and villages, in which there is a single culture. Throughout the world, in places as diverse as some rural Wisconsin farming communities and villages in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, multicultural church would simply be foolishness. Our church family doesn’t congregate in one of those places. We are the ekklesia in a community that is home to people with many different backgrounds. Some are even from unreached people groups, having never had the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel of Christ.

To reach these people, the leaders in our church need to grapple with the reality of culture. In Re:Discovering the Mission of God, after we look to Scripture to inform our understanding of the church, giving it permission to challenge our preconceptions, we will also grapple with how to best communicate the Gospel within our multicultural context.

Putting off the comforts and values of one’s culture so others may be reached is not just the call of an overseas missionary, but it is a lifestyle all Christians are called to as we look to Christ, the Son of God. In Philippians 2 we read that Christ emptied himself and came incarnate into a family displaced from their home due to political oppression, grew up in a foreign country and then the backwoods of Israel, living in such perfect obedience to the Father that he gave himself up on a cross for our behalf. Because of this, we are called to do nothing from self-focus but considering others more important than ourselves.

In 1 Peter 4:13 we are encouraged to rejoice if we share in Christ’s suffering. If we have this opportunity before us to be the church…(multicultural)…the church of this community…it’s not going to amount to suffering. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. In fact, it has to be hard. Because putting others first is difficult. Dying to self is meant to be difficult. If we desire the harvest, we choose what is difficult. This doesn’t mean choosing what is joyless or burdensome. It means that in the struggle, we find a greater intimacy with Christ, and we discover that’s worth more than what we lost. 

A few people have brought up questions about why some things are being done a different way, or being moved around. Some people heard the reasons when they were shared with the congregation, some didn’t. Likewise, some are confused on why these questions are coming up, because they understood that these things are in line with why the church called a new pastor. All of that is OK! This is a reminder that even within the same culture, communication can take on such nuance that individuals can leave with different understanding of what was said. That’s why it’s so important to dedicate ourselves to understanding our mission, vision, and values, which are all focused and flowing from Christ.

To expound on this: just as we can have difficulty communicating and understanding each other, it was the same in the First Century church. In Colossians 2:6-10 we get a sense of what can bring confusion, and then how to overcome it: “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as LORD, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.’

What brings confusion? Philosophies, traditions, and deceit that are from the world. What bring unity and clarity? Being rooted and built up in Christ, overflowing with gratitude, being filled with Christ’s Spirit. 

It’s easy to become myopic and forget that the things we are doing as a church are small and active steps toward setting aside the things that draw our focus away from Christ, toward finding unity in Christ. God doesn’t need us, and He doesn’t need our church. But we want to be with Him, as close to Christ in his suffering as we may be. 

We need to be ready to receive—radically welcome!—those who aren’t like us. You’ll see over the next few weeks and months how moving a particular thing creates space for employing effective methods of teaching Christ and his Kingdom, for more healing ministry, helping us to be more conscientious toward those in our community who we want so desperately to know and enjoy Christ.

It’s not the responsibility of every person in the church to grapple through the questions regarding culture, and it’s not good to continue using sermon and teaching time to try and cover these things. But Re:Discovering the Mission of God is about engaging with the word of God, praying together, learning together, and listening to one another because these are the steps toward laying off other traditions and philosophies and finding unity in Christ. It’s a path to leadership that requires faith.

Faith is action based upon the word of God. Faith is never inactive. It prepares. It anticipates. Faith prepares the soil for harvest. In Ecclesiastes 3 we read that there is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven, including “a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build.” If we do not uproot, if we don’t tear down, we can’t expect to be built up again. We must allow the truth to wound our pride, to tear us, so we can be healed, bound up, and revived, and experience a renewal of the LORD’s presence in our midst (Hosea 6:1-3). Then we may dream together of being the church in this city that shows Christ is for all who live in this city.

Faith Over Fear in 2022

The Two Dog Analogy

Have you ever heard the analogy of the two dogs? My guess is that most of us have heard this in some form or another. Many, like me, have probably heard a version of it in a sermon before. It’s made its way into pop culture. The illustration made its way into the Disney movie Tomorrowland, family-friendly fare starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie and based on the area of Disneyland sharing the same name.

This story is simple: if you have two dogs, the dog you feed more to will win in a fight. This anecdote has been attributed to Native Americans, though the first time it surfaced seems to have actually been in a book by Billy Graham. There are many things we could contrast with one another using this picture, and the challenge for us today is whether we would feed faith or feed fear.

A Faith Venture in a Tumultuous Time

The years 2020-2021 were years in which we experienced a lot of upheaval. Regardless of what the motivating factors may have been, governments began making decisions that affected every system that is a part of our everyday experience. In a country founded on religious freedom, many churches were banned from meeting together in person, a clear violation of living as an ecclesia, a soma, a people called together in Christ (Hebrews 10:25). There were restrictions on human connection, on travel, on the ways we participate in the economy. In many places, people were restricted to their homes. Children were sent out from schools to learn at home. We began to dress, speak, and relate in ways we never had before. To add to everything else, this all happened during a presidential election season, and so our natural pull toward politicizing things went into overdrive.

In addition to everything else, our human response to a scary new sickness brought previously unknown disruption to the global economy that has been growing for over a half century. The United States and our brand of capitalism was the leading force in that global economy, and so while many of us have anticipated and longed for a return to something normal, the effects continue to drag on.

If there is any word to capture the global mood of 2020-2021, that word may be fear. Whether fearful of the virus or fearful of the human responses to it, we’ve all had to deal with changes that have had a devastating effect on us.

It’s in the midst of this that we have come together in a faith venture.

The Language of Faith, the Language of Fear

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
For by it our ancestors won God’s approval.”
Hebrews 11:1-2

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.
We love because he first loved us.”
James 4:15-20

Jesus defines the greatest love as giving up our life for a friend (John 15:13). This is the love that we know in Christ.

The voice of faith, then, says this: “Lord, lead me to give of myself that you may be glorified. Make me so complete in your love that I require nothing else to satisfy me.” When we are made complete in this type of love, we do not fear what we may lose, because we have come to consider all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Fear of losing those things outside of Christ that comfort and complete us, or sometimes are idolatrous to us, keep us from venturing out in faith. Just as in the life of Paul, we aspire to be wholly satisfied in Christ, because it was through Christ all things were created, and to Christ all things are owed. The voice of fear is the voice that speaks out the things we require, the things we cannot lose, that would keep us from giving up our desires and comforts for the other.

Faith Over Fear

Faith acknowledges that there may be loss, but that the reward will be greater than the loss. Do we have faith that God is building His Kingdom? Do we have faith that God’s love is for the lost, the broken, and the hurting, within our church and outside of it?

Even as we are redeemed in Christ, our hearts can easily deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Yesterday I shared a prayer that when I find my actions inconsistent with faith and wholeness in Christ, I pray something along these lines: “LORD, please show me the lie that I am believing and lead me to truth.” The freedom we gain from truth is not a one-time event. It is ongoing. It is a tragic irony that this verse has been taken from its context—“If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31-32).

Remaining as we are and where we are does not require faith. Fear requires us to manage our loss, to maintain the familiar. Faith requires us to move into the unknown. But we know Christ. We know Christ is worthy of our whole life, and he is the one our faith is in (John 12:24-26).

Hebrews 11 gives us stories to illustrate what faith is. Faith tries. Faith requires movement. Faith does something at the risk of great loss…in fact, there is always loss of something. Faith is rewarded with the nearness of God.

That “dog” named fear isn’t going anywhere. It’s still going to be here, and its going to beg you to feed it. It will gobble up every self-thought that it is offered, and it will be strengthened. It will be fed by focusing attention on the things that may be lost.

Let’s nourish that “dog” named faith. Individually and together, faith will be nourished by meditating on Christ, abiding in prayer, and the word. Faith will be fed by putting on the truth and receiving the freedom it brings. It will be fed by acknowledging and seeking God in Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Faith will be fed through exercising its muscle, by stepping out into something new, led by the truth and goodness in Christ, through the strength given us by the Holy Spirit.

For 2022, let’s believe for the best, that faith will triumph over fear, and Christ will be exalted in us and on the earth!

Night at the “Movies”: Ends of the Earth

Purchase your tickets online or at the box office and join us as we watch “Ends of the Earth,” and invite God to stir our hearts for the people groups who have never heard the Gospel. Use this link to purchase tickets.